Situated in the municipality of San Roque, Sotogrande, with its satellite villages of Pueblo Nuevo and Torreguadiaro is famous throughout the world for its luxurious lifestyle.
Sotogrande itself was the dream of an American entrepreneur, Joseph McMicking who wanted to build an idyllic environment in which to live. He visited the region in the 1960 s and saw that the coastal area between Torreguadiaro and Pueblo Nuevo de Guadiaro was perfect. It had decent communications to Málaga and Gibraltar airports, fantastic views across the Gibraltar Strait to Africa and inland to the hills and was in the beautiful setting of the Rio Guadiaro valley and its estuary.
He bought his first cortijo in 1962, Cortijo Paniagua. Paniagua is now a thriving commercial area with shops, restaurants and offices tastefully occupying the original ancient building.
Since then Sotogrande has grown to be one of the finest gated communities in the world covering over 4,000 acres. The rich, famous and the nobility own its villas and apartments, many of which overlook or, more recently, were actually built on purpose built islands in Sotogrande marina that is now considered the finest marina in the Western Mediterranean with berths for over 800 boats from just a few metres in length to super cruisers of 30 metres.
The marina is the first that you encounter when you sail east of Gibraltar so is a favourite for those fitting out to sail deeper into the Med. Support services include chandlers, a fuel bunker, lifting out facilities, restaurants and bars.
Crews are never short of entertainment. Other sporting facilities include golf at any of the international courses in the area, polo, tennis and various water borne activities such as sailing, canoeing and wind surfing.
Nature lovers will find the Guadiaro estuary a fascinating habitat for birds, including a number of pairs of purple gallinules that have established themselves since 2004, together with many species of raptor and wader. There are areas of wild coastal maquis deliberately protected but left open for pedestrian traffic to provide a home for the resident mammals and reptiles and native shrubs and flowers. At any time of the year a walk alongside the river or around a lagoon is a colourful and rewarding experience.
For those in need of pure relaxation, the beaches are some of the best in Andalucia.
Just a short walk from Sotogrande, via a boardwalk alongside a lagoon, is the newly promenaded Torreguadiaro. As the name suggests it is the location of one of the many torres or towers built between the 15th and 18th centuries to provide vantage points to warn the locals when marauding bands of Barbary pirates were making their way from their safe havens on the coast of Morocco. In fact Torreguadiaro has two torres, the first and newest is a rather grand affair visible from the boardwalk whilst the second, older, torre is gently crumbling at the western end of the promenade.
It has taken Torreguadiaro two thousand years to develop as far as it has today. During Roman times it was a tiny fishing settlement, famous in those days perhaps for being on one of the routes taken by the Via Augusta, a series of roads that went from Cádiz to Rome. The paved Roman road crumbled over the ages, only to be paved again in the early 20th century.
By the time Joseph McMicking came along the N340 as it had become was a single-track tarmac road with dusty verges. The fishing village through which it passed had hardly grown, a collection of cottages housing the fishing families whose boats were drawn up in the sheltered bay at the eastern end of the village. Gradually, as Sotogrande expanded, so to did Torreguadiaro. More modern houses and apartments were built, not to everyone’s taste but with stupendous views, and the roadside properties became restaurants and bars.
The road itself was widened with a central planted reservation over a couple of years and finally finished in 2008. A large car park was built at one end of the promenade at the same time that now also serves as the location for the weekly market. There are a number of restaurants in this small village each with its own speciality, traditional Spanish, modern Italian, Indian and International and a number of bars at which you can sip coffee or something stronger whilst watching the world go by.
The name Torreguadiaro comes from the tower on the river Guadiaro, pretty obvious, but then Julie asked, ‘What does guad mean, where does that come from?’ If you think about it those four letters appear all over the place, Guadalquivir, Guadiaro, the Guadalete, mostly associated with river names. Julie found the answer, guad is from the Arab word wadi that means valley.